November 26, 1943 – June 14, 2022
With his two children by his side, Daniel Aleman departed this world peacefully early in the morning on June 14, 2022. He was 78.
Mr. Aleman (or “Dan”, as he is known to many) was born to Carmen and Pedro Aleman, Sr., in Georgetown, Texas, on November 26, 1943. His parents were migrant cotton pickers, and his father was also a sheep shearer. When his family was not working in west Texas and Wyoming/Montana, Dan grew up in the same community in Georgetown with his future wife, Orfalinda; their families attended church together, and Dan, Orfie, and their siblings went to school together.
Dan graduated from Georgetown High School in 1962, where he was in the top ten of his class, president of the school band and choir, and an accomplished athlete. After high school, Dan stayed in Georgetown and attended Southwestern University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1966.
Mr. Aleman’s first teaching experience was with beginner band students in the Comal County schools outside New Braunfels, where he worked for two years. He then worked with Bob Reitz and the Reitz Music Company in Austin for several years, traveling all over Central and South Texas selling wind instruments. He used that opportunity to meet and observe many band directors teaching at all grade levels, an experience he would later use to develop his own unique band curriculum and teaching style. In 1972, Mr. Aleman moved to Mexico City and studied Spanish Literature at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) for a year, which sparked a life-long love of Latin American authors and Spanish language books.
In 1973, Mr. Aleman returned to Texas and reconnected with his childhood friend, Orfie, who was working at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. By June of that year, the happy couple had married.
Two days after the wedding, Orfie and Dan packed up Orfie’s belongings (Dan didn’t have any) and moved to Pearsall, Texas, where Dan had been offered the head band director job. When she first visited Pearsall, Orfie thought there was no way she could live in such a small town – where she knew no one and had no friends. But Dan promised her that “it would just be for one year.” The couple then moved into that cozy green house on the corner of Margo Drive and Pecan Street that we’ve all come to know and love. They purchased the home from the prior Pearsall band director who lived there, Gerald Babbitt, who had recruited Mr. Aleman to replace him. For the next 40 years, Dan and Orfie turned that house into a loving and welcoming home that they generously shared with family and friends alike.
From that first year in Pearsall until 2008 – for 35 years – Dan was the head band director for Pearsall High School and Pearsall Junior High. His high school band grew from 75 students in 1973 to over 220 students. At its peak, the Mighty Maverick Band included nearly 1/3 of the entire high school student body. Dan started his Pearsall band career with one assistant director, which eventually grew into four assistants. His 6th through 12th grade band program consisted of two to three concert bands at the high school, three junior high bands, and up to two classes of 6th grade beginners, who he would recruit from the 5th grade in part by performing concerts at the Intermediate School to introduce those students to the joy of making music.
Year after year, Mr. Aleman’s bands consistently earned superior ratings at UIL concert and marching contests. In 1982, after less than a decade as head of the Pearsall band program, Mr. Aleman’s high school band was recognized as the 3A Honor Band by the Texas Bandmasters Association (TBA), an award given to the very best concert band in the state. The feat was remarkable given that more than 2,000 bands were eligible to compete for the honor. That same year, the Pearsall marching band placed 2nd at the UIL State Marching Contest. The next year, in 1983, Mr. Aleman’s high school band was also selected as the 3A Honor Band by the Texas Music Educators’ Association (TMEA).
In addition to producing top concert bands in the state, Mr. Aleman continued to enhance his marching band. In 1987, his high school band finally won the UIL State Marching Contest, placing 1st in the finals as the best 3A marching band in Texas. He came close to winning it again on numerous occasions, as his bands made it to the state marching finals and placed in the top 5 in the state ten more times. His concert bands achieved similar success and accolades over the years.
Although Mr. Aleman took pride in all of his achievements, he believed that his 6th grade beginner classes were the backbone of his entire band program’s success. He always emphasized the importance of establishing a solid foundation of music theory and learning the core fundamentals of musicianship in all of his students but especially his beginners, which paved the road for later successes.
Mr. Aleman also knew that band students who studied music achieved higher academic performance overall compared to non-band students. He was well aware of the multiple studies over the years that showed how band participation increases test scores and lowers dropout rates, helping to close the achievement gap. He also believed that reading music resulted in improved academic skills essential for reading and math development while also boosting students’ motivation to learn. He knew that students in high-quality school band programs like his own scored higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient (or no) music education programs, regardless of the community’s socioeconomic level. His approach to teaching music turned countless students into high-performing individuals, and many of them became lifelong musicians. All of his students learned to appreciate and love music of any kind, in part because Mr. Aleman showed them how music is the one true universal language.
Throughout his teaching career and as a community leader in Pearsall, Mr. Aleman touched the lives of thousands of students, colleagues, and teachers, as well as their families. He was a hard-working and passionate educator who cared deeply about his students and staff. He believed in each of them, and he instilled in them a work ethic and confidence in themselves and in their community that convinced them they could and would achieve excellence, not only in band but also in life. He truly believed that anyone could be in his band, learn what he had to teach them, and achieve success – regardless of their gender, race, academic standing, or socioeconomic status. When students could not afford to purchase or lease an instrument – a situation he encountered often over the years – he would work with the instrument supplier, the school, and the family to come up with a solution that would allow any student to join the band who wanted to make music with him. He refused to deny a potential band student the opportunity to be in band just because they could not afford an instrument.
But Mr. Aleman’s steadfast commitment to providing access to music education was not completely free. In exchange for that opportunity, he demanded that everyone around him pursue excellence with focus, dedication, and hard work. If he thought you were giving him less than that, he would call you out in his loud, coarse voice – often publicly! In turn he offered his loyalty as a teacher, mentor, and friend. In 2000, when the Pearsall ISD School Board voted to name the band hall in honor of Mr. Aleman and his younger brother (and long-time assistant) Edward, the Board recognized the 25-year tradition of excellence that the Aleman brothers had already built while honoring the legacy that would endure for thousands of future Pearsall band students to come.
Mr. Aleman was widely recognized in South Texas and statewide as a living legend in the band world. In addition to being a devoted teacher who left his imprint on music education, he also changed the way small town bands were viewed in Texas. He is credited with leading the change from traditional military-styled marching drills to drum corps-style marching shows. He also elevated the music played by small town bands. In striving for excellence in Pearsall, Mr. Aleman raised the bar for all small school band programs across the state and influenced other band directors to follow suit. Throughout his career, he served in many band leadership positions, including the State UIL Advisory Board (on which he served for 20 years), the State Panel for TMEA Honor Band, and as a Regional Coordinator and All-State Concert Band Organizer for the Association of Texas Small School Bands. He was also a frequent judge of marching and concert contests across the state. In 2013, in recognition of his many career achievements, Mr. Aleman was inducted as the 250th member of the Texas Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame.
Outside of the band hall, Mr. Aleman was also a one-of-a-kind storyteller. As everyone knows, he loved to talk! Whether it was explaining the background of a piece of music to the audience at one of his beloved Christmas concerts – or telling a story to his family and friends sitting around the table at his home or at Jalisco’s – or embellishing a tale about his travels to Mexico while sitting under his grape arbor or around a fire in his backyard – Mr. Aleman knew how to captivate his audience and tell a story. He would talk to anyone who would listen. He always had something interesting or insightful or funny to share with his listeners – often using very “colorful” language – and in most cases his stories were all of those things at the same time. Put simply, when Mr. Aleman spoke, we all listened and learned.
Mr. Aleman was also an adventurer. He loved to travel to Mexico and New York and visited both places many times. His favorite way to experience Mexico was by bus; he would leave the border in Laredo with no set itinerary and would traverse the country by road. Often he would sit right next to the bus driver and talk with him for hours as they trekked to Guadalajara, Mexico City, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta (to name a just few of the places he visited). Once he was settled, he loved to get on a city bus and take it to the end of its route, often getting off along the way when he saw something that looked interesting. In New York City, he would do the same thing, often taking the subway or train into the City from Long Island, where his sister-in-law lived. He would walk the streets of Manhattan and explore the city on foot and by bus – as he did in Mexico – stopping to take pictures and eat as many street foods as he could. He would always find a way to explore the cities’ museums and arts/music venues, usually waiting just minutes until the performances would start to buy discounted tickets before the curtain went up! He and Orfie even traveled to Sicily to visit extended family there, a wonderful trip that he loved to talk about.
After Dan retired from teaching in 2008, he spent the next several years caring for Orfie, who fought hard and struggled valiantly against cancer. He was by her side in their living room when she departed peacefully in 2012.
In retirement, Dan also became a grandfather and welcomed his two grandchildren into the world, Taliana Lucia in 2009 and Teodoro Xavier in 2011. He spent countless hours with them over the next decade. He would drive to Dallas to visit them for weeks at a time, and he was always happy to have them stay with him on Margo Drive. As they got older, they would help him in the yard, and he enjoyed attending their sports games and school and music activities. He helped teach them how to swim and ride a bike and throw a ball. He also traveled with them and his children to Mexico, Costa Rica, and New York.
As he did with his own children, Mr. Aleman would of course request (or demand) that Tali and Teo play music for him, both in person and even over Zoom during the pandemic. He taught them to read music and even began teaching them music fundamentals and theory at an early age. He was never as hard on them as he was on Carmen, Sergio, and all of his former band students; being a grandfather softened him a bit over the years! But he still taught them much about music and he did not hesitate to point at them in his unique “Mr. Aleman way” and tell them sternly when they were not doing something right. “Do it right next time or don’t do it all.”
True to his calling, Grandpa Dan was a music teacher right until the end. A few weeks before he passed, as he was weakening and his health was rapidly declining, his two grandchildren visited him in San Antonio. They moved a keyboard into his room so that Teo could play some music for him before a piano recital the following week. Grandpa Dan got out of bed and sat next to Teo at the keyboard to hear him play for nearly an hour. With his pencil in his hand, his eyes locked on the sheet music, and his ears tuned to the notes coming off Teo’s fingers, Mr. Aleman focused intently and pointed out several areas where Teo needed to make adjustments or make corrections, including to rhythms, tempo, and dynamic variations. Teo listened and learned and took notes. He became a better musician right then and there, just like the thousands of students Mr. Aleman had taught for decades.
As it turned out, this would be Mr. Aleman’s final music lesson, and it ended in a big hug, a thank you, and an “I love you” from his only grandson. But it also felt like a thank you and “we love you” hug from all of his students and former colleagues who had learned so much from him over the years.
A father of two and grandfather of two more, Dan is survived by his younger brother Edward Aleman of Kilgore, his eternally grateful children, Carmen Aleman-Berrelez of Dallas and Sergio Aleman of San Antonio, and his grandchildren, Taliana and Teodoro Berrelez of Dallas. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Carmen and Pedro Aleman, Sr., his wife Orfalinda Aleman, and his older brother, Pedro Aleman, Jr.
Visitation will be held from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Hurley Funeral Home Chapel with an evening prayer service to be held for Mr. Aleman at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Pearsall, Texas. The following morning, a memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 30, 2022, at the First United Methodist Church in Pearsall, Texas. A second memorial service will be held in Mr. Aleman’s hometown of Georgetown, Texas, at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 1, 2022, at St. John’s United Methodist Church, with his burial to follow at Georgetown Memorial Cemetery. Mr. Aleman will be laid to rest next to his wife of 38 years, Orfalinda.
The family requests that you hug your loved ones and tell them how much you love them. In lieu of flowers for Mr. Aleman, the family requests that you consider making a donation to a forthcoming memorial/scholarship fund for band students in need that will be set up to honor his legacy. The family will share further details of this donation opportunity in future communications on social media (follow Carmen Aleman-Berrelez and Sergio Aleman).
Thank you, Mr. Aleman, for sharing your life, your love, and your love and knowledge of music with each of us. You are forever our dear dad, grandpa, brother, uncle, cousin, teacher, mentor, and friend. We love you and will never forget you.
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